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Mission Impossible III

Last night I saw Mission Impossible III.

It was all about the choices. As in, there weren't any. The only film I was vaguely curious in seeing was The New World, but it was starting an hour later, and it was cold. So we (L. and P. and me) went and saw Mission Impossible. Two hours later we left, not actually knowing what the film was about at all.

Oh, sure, to a degree, it's simple: Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, and there's evil in the world, and he has to go out and stop it. The evil is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's when you leave these little descriptions behind that everything in the film breaks down. For you see, no one in the film actually knows what it is that Hoffman's bad guy does. He might be an arms dealer. He might be a drug dealer. He might have shadowy connections to the Vatican. He might be so powerful that when you capture him, it will only be honours before armed men in helicopters and planes arrive to rescue him. Or, it might be that he is nothing but a decoy for a larger, more evil force. You'll never know, however, because not once does anyone stop to ask why it is that they are so interested in this guy.

Well, except for the fact that he has Tom Cruise's wife, who bares a passing resemblance to Katie Holmes.

In many ways, you have to admire director J.J Abrams for his choice to jettison any character building, over all suspense, or even an internal logic for the film. It's as if he knows that we don't really care what it is that Hoffman does to make him evil. It's simply enough for him to say that he's evil, and have him threaten Cruise's wife, and use that to justify everything within the film. It is as if Abrams knows that the only reason we go to see a film like Mission Impossible is so that we can watch some explosions and Tom Cruise run. Much like War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise is in fine running form for this film, and you'll see him run from action scene to action scene without pause to ask, "Why am I doing this?"

So, in many ways (all the important ways), the film is an absolute pile of shit. Yet, yet, I have to admit, a lot of the action scenes are slick and fast. They lack the operatic quality that John Woo's Mission Impossible II had, but right until the final twenty minutes of the film, when it catches up to the opening, the slickness and speed of each of the scenes is enough to keep you going. It's only once the film catches up with itself, where plot then begins to get important, since the revenge nature of the film is finished, that it falls over and dies. Plus, the action scenes get kind of stupid then. I mean, more stupid than what has happened before.

Abrams film is much like the majority of films out there nowadays, in that they are paper thin on plot, character, and anything that didn't require putting some explosives on a windmill and blowing it up. It's not that I don't like these things, but rather that, when this is all that you have, and even if you do it well, it's ultimately hollow. Mission Impossible is a hollow film. Without any time spent building its characters (I can't even tell you the names of any Cruise's IMF team, except for Ving Rhames' Luthor--but you'd want to remember his name, since he's been in all three films, and has been wasted in all three films)... but without any time spent building the characters, once the bullets start flying, and the girls start wearing slinky dresses, and the plastic faces are made to be worn--because you can't have a Mission Impossible film without using the fake face thing stupidly--you just don't care what happens.

I didn't care.

Comments

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girliejones
May. 11th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
That's actually an interesting reflection of societ today - noone tells you any more what the bad guys are supposed to have done.. you just have to be alleged to be a terrorist and the "alleged" bit is forgotten and now suddenly they want you to be locked up in Guantanamo Bay forever. I've noticed a lot lately in the media the lack of rigor once someone is labelled "bad guy". And people are so scared that they don't question it.

Why bother sitting down and concocting an actual plot? The zombies today won't notice, especially if you throw in a code to break on top of it.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)
well, it's not acceptable in the media, and it's certainly not acceptable in fiction. i don't see it so much as a reflection of society as just being lazy, in the caseof the film. in the case of the media, it really just represents how much of it is controlled by the government.
girliejones
May. 11th, 2006 03:37 am (UTC)
and maybe laziness too.
jack_ryder
May. 11th, 2006 03:11 am (UTC)
I was with you up to
the operatic quality that John Woo's Mission Impossible II had

Unless you mean it was boring.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2006 03:33 am (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
well, it was boring. but it can be cool, as in FACE/OFF and HARD BOILED and THE KILLER.
jack_ryder
May. 11th, 2006 03:50 am (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
Yeah, I accept that those films are operatic (in a good way) and I think Face/Off is still under-rated.

But Woo was wasted on MI2 - at least I got to see Richard Roxburgh do the worst South African accent I've ever heard.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
yeah, woo was wasted on it. but, you know, he's been pretty much wasted since he got to hollywood. certainly after FACE/OFF he hasn't made a good film--though i didn't see the last one.
ataxi
May. 11th, 2006 04:43 am (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
I don't think Woo has found a Hollywood actor that suits his style yet. Tom Cruise is fine in Spielberg films, but he's too earnest for Woo - he doesn't have the ability to translate romance, tragedy or poetry to the screen that someone like Chow Yun-Fat has. Travolta and Cage were a letdown in Face/Off IMO. But Cruise was worse in MI:2. In a way even Van Damme looked better in a Woo film than Cruise ever could.
benpeek
May. 12th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
there is apparently a bootleg of HARD TARGET, woo's film with van damme, that's a different cut of the film that was released. i've heard it's actually good.
ataxi
May. 12th, 2006 01:58 am (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
I like Hard Target. Granted, Van Damme's acting is not up to scratch. But Woo's movies are opera of sorts, and in an opera the quality of the acting is not of paramount importance.

Some of the acting in Woo's HK masterpieces is laughable - e.g. "Danny" in the Killer. The point is the way the plot unfolds, and the way the action is directed. The characters themselves are subordinate to the inexorable logic of the plot.

The final confrontation in Hard Target is an absolute classic. It turned Lance Henriksen into an iconic figure all by itself. The bit where his trenchcoat's on fire and he shakes his flaming arm in anger, in slow motion, is beautiful. Quite a bit of that last scene was rehashed in Face/Off.
benpeek
May. 12th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
i barely remember anything about HARD TARGET now. the scene that remains in my head is the one where lance henriksen shoots a guy through the eye piece on his door, and how he has that gun.

woo reworks a lot of stuff in his films. pigeons, for example.
bodhichitta0
May. 11th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC)
Re: I was with you up to
I have a great weakness for John Woo. I love his style. I didn't like Mission Impossible II but it was SO PRETTY in parts.

Face/Off is fabulous. I own it and everything. People laugh at me when I say there is a lot in that movie. But if you start following the duality of everything, it is much more than an action movie. And he got good performances out of John Travolta and Nick Cage.
ataxi
May. 11th, 2006 04:18 am (UTC)
You should've gone to see Caché (Hidden), the latest French thriller. It's a bit pretentious (dealing as it does with the fascinating family lives of monied French actors playing monied French intellectuals somewhat unconvincingly) but it's a genuinely good film. Interesting shots, interesting meta-story stuff, great build of dramatic tension, decent acting and a superb and rather original conclusion.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2006 07:13 am (UTC)
i currently live in the western suburbs of sydney. if i want to go see a french film, i've got to travel at least forty minutes. the local cinemas only play trash round me--but i'll keep an eye out for it, so thanks for the tip.
ataxi
May. 11th, 2006 08:32 am (UTC)
Fair enough. I've had the same experience of rocking up at a Hoyts lately and noticing there's basically nothing worth watching screening. I did see American Dreamz the other day, that was OK.

Hidden is definitely worth a look. It has an unusual knack of keeping you staring at the screen - not just what's happening, but the details as well (has to do with the plotline). It also has one of the more sudden shocks I've ever seen in cinema. Pretty much the whole audience were struck by lightning.
crookfactory
May. 11th, 2006 06:11 am (UTC)
I guess on a similar note to the film's hollowness and plot holes, I came out of it knowing I had seen a movie in the last 2 hours. But, for the life of me, I couldn't have told you what it was about and why it was good. It seemed the relationship I had with the film suddenly ended when the credits started rolling.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2006 07:15 am (UTC)
my relationship ended with the second mask removal. i think if that hadn't happened, i might even have enjoyed the whole thing. though i wouldn't have been able to explain to you a thing about it...
kazzibee
May. 11th, 2006 08:12 am (UTC)
Your reviews are so much more thorough than mine.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2006 11:45 am (UTC)
more spare time ;)
kazzibee
May. 11th, 2006 11:53 am (UTC)
hahahaha i see your spare time and triple it! There's no WAY anybody else on earth has more spare time than me. I am pure spare time!
joey_j0jo
May. 11th, 2006 08:22 am (UTC)
I just wanted it today in fact (after exams and all). It was a horrid film, the only amusing thing was when people started speaking chinese and that Jonathan Myers(sp?) was it in for a bit.

The only reason we watched it was because it was that or nothing.
benpeek
May. 11th, 2006 11:49 am (UTC)
what was so funny about the chinese stuff?

i watched it for pretty mucht he same reason.
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
May. 13th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
the rest of the review was basically 'i should have waited the hour and saw the new world'.
angriest
May. 15th, 2006 07:42 am (UTC)
But is this one as rampantly mysogynist as the second one? That's what I want to know before I inevitably go to see it.
benpeek
May. 15th, 2006 11:16 am (UTC)
i didn't think the second one was mysogynist. so...
angriest
May. 17th, 2006 12:19 pm (UTC)
The female protagonist - played by Thandie Newton - is hired by IMF to be a prostitute.

Every decision Tom Cruise makes is because he's a secret agent, decisive, masculine, powerful and male.

Every decision Thandie Newton makes is because she's weak, indecisive, heads over heels in love with Tom, a victim and female.

Anthony Hopkins gets that great line, too: "To go to bed with a man and lie to him? She's a woman - she has all the training she needs." (Very amusing, and this in a screenplay by Robert Towne.)

In MI:3 they spend the whole movie running around after one of the most blatant Macguffins ever. In MI:2, Thandie Newton is the Macguffin. She's woman as property. It's positively fucking medieval. Now John Woo's always been a fairly sexist director - not to mention a ridiculously homoerotic one - but in his earlier films this manifested itself by simply excluding female presence from his narratives, not by actively denigrating them. My wife couldn't even finish watched MI:2, she was so offended by it.
benpeek
May. 17th, 2006 12:26 pm (UTC)
Every decision Tom Cruise makes is because he's a secret agent, decisive, masculine, powerful and male.

Every decision Thandie Newton makes is because she's weak, indecisive, heads over heels in love with Tom, a victim and female.


that can be said of eighty percent of action films put out by hollywood, however. indeed, the moment you put the male lead into the point where he needs to rescue her, you open up the narrative for this kind of reading. i could apply the same thing to MI3, if i so wanted.

i'm not saying you're wrong. it's a fair enough reading. it's just that if i wanted, i could line up the hollywood films and books and TV shows and whatever for the same reading.
angriest
May. 18th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
It's just so obvious in MI2. They tell us she's a master thief, then don't actually use her abilities as a master thief at all - she's just there to have sex with the villain at the request of the US government.
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